What to do after you’ve been burgled

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We run through what to do first if someone breaks in to your home and what steps you can take to minimise any distress for you and your family

Couple in burgled home

Office for National Statistics figures show that, despite a four percent decrease since the previous year, there were still a shocking 380,567 burglary offences recorded in England and Wales in the year to September 2019.

But one thing’s for sure; improving your home security will deter burglars. The more difficult you make things, the more likely they are to bypass your home.

So, what steps do you need to take straight away if someone breaks in to your home?

And how do you get back on your feet after the distress a burglary can cause?

What to do after a burglary

With emotions running high, it can be difficult to think clearly. But taking a few practical steps as soon as possible after the event can help ease the burden on you - and make it easier to claim on your home insurance too.

Here’s what to do.

1. Call the police

As soon as you discover your property has been burgled, dial 101. The police will give you a Crime Reference Number which you’ll need for any contents insurance claim you make. For text-phone, the number is 18001 101.

Important: if a burglary is in progress, call 999. Try to stay calm and the police will be with you as soon as possible.

2. Don't touch anything

Although your initial instinct may be to tidy up, or even to pull on rubber gloves and scrub your house free from all signs of the break-in, it’s best to avoid touching items that have been moved or disturbed, as you may be compromising evidence.

Take photographs of the scene, including broken doors and windows, and even photograph empty spaces where property has been taken. It can all help ease the process when making an insurance claim.

3. Cancel any stolen cards

If you believe any bank, credit cards or cheque books have been stolen, call your bank or credit card company straight away.

You should also call your finance providers if you’ve lost phones, tablets or laptops that had bank account details and logins on them.

4. Call your mobile phone provider

If your mobile phone has been stolen, get your phone provider to put a stop on your account immediately. Consider any important passwords you may have stored on your phone and change these as soon as possible.

5. Make an inventory

Collect any evidence you have about items taken from your property, such as receipts, photographs or valuations. It will help any insurance claim if you can provide an estimate of things stolen or damaged. Don’t dispose of anything that might be needed for inspection by your insurer.

According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the most common items stolen in domestic burglaries are:

  • Purses, wallets, money and cards
  • Computer equipment
  • Jewellery and watches
  • Electrical items, such as cameras.

From outbuildings, sheds and domestic workshops, tools and work materials are most often taken.

Remember to check if your passport or driving licence are missing. If they are, you should inform the passport office and the DVLA respectively.

6. Contact your insurer

Call your insurance company as soon as possible with a list of what’s been stolen. The police will give you a Crime Reference Number, which you’ll also need to give to your insurance provider when you contact them.

If you're an Admiral customer, you can make a claim online

Your insurer can also advise you on immediate security provisions, such as changing locks if they’ve been forced or if your keys have been stolen; it’s advisable to use a locksmith who is a member of the Master Locksmiths' Association

Tips to secure your home and protect it from burglars

According to West Yorkshire police, one in four burglaries occurred because the property was insecure. To keep your home as safe as possible, try these simple steps which could make a big difference in avoiding the risk of burglary.

  1. Lock all windows and doors - don't forget about upper levels and side gates. Even leaving a window slightly ajar could be enough to entice a criminal
  2. Lock ladders away - Don't leave a ladder outside which could provide easy access to your home
  3. Don't leave valuables on display - take a look through your windows from the outside to see what everyone else can see. Consider a safe for expensive or sentimental items
  4. Outdoor lighting - motion-censored outdoor lighting or automatic dusk-to-dawn lighting will illuminate the outside of your house when anyone approaches. A well-lit house isn't an easy target for crooks creeping around
  5. Gravel - If you're thinking of sprucing up your front garden or driveway, gravel has extra security benefit. No burglar will be able to approach quietly with a gravel entrance
  6. Anti-climb paint - known as non-drying or anti-intruder paint, a thick, oily coating applied to your garden fence gives a smooth gloss finish but remains slippery indefinitely, helping prevent any intruder getting a foothold as well as covering them in paint

Burglars want to be in and out as quickly as possible. Any deterrents you can put in place will make this difficult and help keep your home safe.

Think about installing a good quality alarm system from an NSI or SSAIB approved company and consider video doorbell cameras or CCTV.

A tall fence at the back of your property can make access difficult, but it’s a good idea to keep fences, walls or shrubbery at the front of your property low, so that burglars have nowhere to hide if they’re thinking of breaking in.

Upgrade any old or poorly-fitting locks in your home, and ensure they conform to British Standard BS3621.

Consider adding sash jammers to UPVC doors or windows and a good-quality door lock on patio and French doors. A reputable local locksmith from the Master Locksmiths' Association can advise you on how best to keep your home secure.

Tips to protect your home from burglary when you’re on holiday

Anything that makes your home appear lived-in is likely to deter a thief. If you’re out for the night or on holiday, you could help prevent a break-in by:

  • Put lights, televisions and radios on a timer switch to give the impression someone's at home
  • Cancel milk deliveries
  • Get a neighbour or relative to put out your bins and even arrange for someone to come into the house to open and close curtains when you’re away
  • Ask someone with two cars to park one on your drive overnight

Yes, we all want to show off, but don’t advertise the fact that your house is going to be empty by discussing your holiday plans on social media before you go. When you’re away, you should also resist the urge to post pictures of yourself sunbathing poolside. 

Find out how broadcasting the fact you're on holiday could invalidate your home insurance

How can home insurance help when I’ve been burgled?

Being burgled can turn your life upside down. But having decent home insurance in place can help you pick up the pieces. It will help pay for repairs to any damage to your property, as well as covering the cost of replacing what’s been stolen. Good-quality policies offer ‘new for old’ cover on most things, meaning you'll get enough to cover the cost of a new replacement item.

When you’re buying contents insurance, it’s important you correctly estimate the value of the belongings in your home so you have enough cover in place if you need to make a claim. Our research found many of us underestimate the value of our home contents, so, with that in mind, we’ve created a handy contents calculator to help you come up with a realistic total.

Our great value contents insurance offers three levels of cover, so you’re sure to find the right level for you. Our regular package covers contents up to £75,000, while Gold covers up to £100,000 with added extras and Platinum offers cover up to £150,000.

Take care of you

Having your home burgled is a horrible experience. Even if you’re fortunate in that not much is taken, knowing a stranger has been in your home going through your things is a horrible feeling.

If you live alone it can be especially hard. Having friends and neighbours round in the first days after a burglary is a good idea. Coming to terms with what a stranger has done with your personal possessions can be a harrowing experience and sometimes takes longer than you might expect.

Children too can find the loss of a sense of security very difficult to adjust to. You could ask a friend or a member of your family to take your kids out or look after them while you tidy their things.

Remember any feelings you have of upset, anger, anxiety and depression are completely normal.

You can call the charity Victim Support at any time to get help with how you’re feeling and for practical advice. Their free support line is 08 08 16 89 111.

Flexible home insurance from Admiral